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Proud for historic documentation and preservation

 
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Victoria
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 3:06 pm    Post subject: Proud for historic documentation and preservation Reply with quote

I was quite happy when a couple weeks ago the Wisconsin State Historical Society saved a rare album of photos of Taliesin I, which were offered for auction on eBay. A private collector could have gotten these, but instead an important historical archive will get the photogtraphs. Here is a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story with the details if you haven't heard about what $22,000 can buy...





A photo finish

Wright admirers buy historic photos on eBay



By WHITNEY GOULD

wgould@journalsentinel.com

Posted: Feb. 1, 2005



Amid the titanium golf clubs, antique clocks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer



action figures and assorted other treasures and trinkets offered up for



sale on eBay, the Internet auction site, there was this entry last



week: a simple, gray album full of old sepia photographs showing the



construction of a house.





Not just any house. The 32 rare snapshots document the 1911-'12



emergence of Frank Lloyd Wright's original Taliesin, his sprawling home



and studio near Spring Green. Racing against time and other collectors,



45 Wright aficionados from around the country cobbled together the $22



,100 it would eventually take to buy the trove for the financially



strapped Wisconsin Historical Society.



They did it in only a few days - a sign of how fervently his admirers



feel about Wright and his place in Wisconsin history.



Jack Holzhueter, a retired society employee who orchestrated the



campaign, worked for almost two straight days collecting pledges, right



up until the bidding ended Friday evening. It was a neck and neck



scramble against a handful of other bidders, he said, including a



dealer from Michigan. Individual pledges, including some from Milwaukee



and many from Chicago, ranged from $50 to $2,500, with $3,000 from the



society itself.



"If a dealer gets these things, they are broken up. That's how people



make their money," Holzhueter said. "For people who care about Wright,



it would have been a disaster. We knew it was important to keep the



photographs together."



The seller was Helen Conwell, a retired physician from Fairhope, Ala.



She had acquired the album in 1988 from the estate of Dale O'Brien, who



with his wife, Helen, had been active in the arts community around



Spring Green in the 1960s and '70s. The couple owned land next to



Taliesin and later moved to Fairhope.



Conwell, now 82, said in a telephone interview that she decided to sell



the album when she began downsizing after the death of her husband last



year. She said she didn't expect to get more than "a few hundred



dollars."



The $22,100 sale price, she said, "has me still sort of floating. And



it's really exciting to have been a part of this."



The 3-by-5 images offer a remarkable glimpse of Taliesin I, as it is



known, in its infancy: One shows its cantilevered roof, stuccoed walls



and jutting balcony, with workmen in the foreground. Another shows the



garden courtyard enclosed by the ground-hugging building. Still others



show the light-filled drafting room, with its pitched roof; the



spacious living room, with its big stone chimney and oak built-ins; and



the house on its hillside perch.



The pictures give no hint of the turbulent history the house would get



caught up in. Taliesin I was built after Wright had left his wife and



family in Oak Park, Ill., to take up residence in Spring Green, the



valley of his Lloyd-Jones forebears, with Mamah Borthwick, the wife of



a former client. In 1914, a servant set the house on fire, destroying



it and killing Borthwick, her two children and four employees.



Wright built a second Taliesin on the foundations of the first; much of



it was lost to another fire, in 1925, caused by faulty wiring. The



architect was continually rebuilding and modifying the house until his



death in 1959.



Very few photographs exist of the original building, which makes the



eBay find so exciting to historians.



"These photographs show Frank Lloyd Wright in a period of transition,



doing experimental work based partly on his experiences in Italy," said



Holzhueter, a Wright buff who is a former editor of the historical



society's Wisconsin Magazine of History and serves on its board of



curators.



Just who took the pictures is unknown. Holzhueter suspects that some



may have been shot by Taylor Wooley, one of Wright's draftsmen, and



that, based on the artful way they were composed, others might have



been taken or at least supervised by Wright himself.



"Whoever took them had a pretty sophisticated eye," says Andy



Kraushaar, the historical society's curator of visual materials.



Peter Gottfried, the society's archivist, said it's too soon to know



how the photographs will be used, since the agency doesn't yet have



possession of them. "But we want to make them as publicly available as



possible," he said.



Holzhueter, who cites the historical society's extensive collection of



Wright drawings and other materials, envisions the photos as part of a



major show on Wright in time for the centenary of Taliesin I, in 2011.





From the Feb. 2, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Victoria
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oops, I should have noticed there was already a thread on the Taliesin album, but maybe the Milwaukee newspaper article will be of interest to someone. Next time I'll more carefully check the postings. Confused
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Spring Green
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the New York Times Sunday edition (for Feb. 13) has picked up the story, so you might want to check it out. That's all I know, so I have no idea if it's going to be more in-depth. I hope to see how Holzhueter pulled everyone together.
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therman7g



Joined: 24 Jan 2005
Posts: 263
Location: Illinois

PostPosted: Wed Feb 16, 2005 11:57 am    Post subject: Rare Taliesin Images on Display at Governor's Office Reply with quote

When fire gutted Taliesin on August 15, 1914, the entire living quarters of the residence were destroyed. Little documentation of the structure survived the fire, thus Taliesin became one of the most puzzling structures of Wright's career. A photograph album of 33 rare photographs of Taliesin recently acquired by the Wisconsin Historical Society will be unveiled to the public February 15th in the Governor's Conference Room at the State Capitol.

The 33 photographs are in an album once owned by the late Dale O'Brien and his wife Helen, who lived in Spring Green during the 1960s. They were put on the market by Helen Conwell, a retired physician from Fairhope, Alabama, who acquired them from the O'Brien estate 20 years later. Dating from 1911-1912, they show the construction of Wright's original Taliesin enclave before it was destroyed by fire in 1914.



Frank Lloyd Wright built Taliesin, his residence near Spring Green, Wisconsin, as a refuge for himself and for Mamah Borthwick Cheney, his mistress and wife of a former client. Wright designed Taliesin just after returning from Europe, and the building's design showed Wright in a period of architectural experimentation based on his experiences there. It was subsequently rebuilt, only to burn again, and was continually revised throughout the architect's life. These images therefore document Wright's original idea for a creative sanctuary as he first envisioned it.



The new photographs will be available to the public on Tuesday, February 15, in the Governor's Conference Room, Room 115 of the state Capitol between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Admission is free.



Meanwhile, the Society has images of Wright buildings as well as images of the man himself in Wisconsin Historical Images. We also sell a number of Wright-inspired items within our museum store.



http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/features/archives/001076.asp



:: Posted February 11, 2005
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